Monday, December 7, 2009


Enough with the sentimental stuff. Sniff, Sniff.

Let's talk birthday parties! Specifically, planning a birthday party.

In all of my blog-reading and magazine-reading, I came across some sort of "Mom List" this year. You know the ones ... Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew, or Eighteen Ways To Be A Good Parent, or Thirty-Seven Things To Help You Be Less Crazy. The one thing that stuck with me was this: Don't make birthday parties a huge deal.

This isn't to say that birthdays aren't special, because they are, but do yourself a favor and don't create a lifetime of crazy birthday expectations.

Maybe this is easy for me to say as a person who doesn't care much about my own birthday. My birthday is only 4 days before Christmas, so it always felt like a bundled holiday. Not in a bad way, but just in a reality way. I was usually home for winter break on my birthday, so no school celebrations. I had some really wonderful parties as a child, and did a lot of special things, but I am also just as happy with a family dinner and a cake. (Just to be clear: cake=birthday). It is nice when people tell me Happy Birthday, and it is lovely when people are so generous and buy gifts, but I don't expect them and I don't mandate days of celebration in honor of my birth.

I recall one of my favorite parent-isms: start as you mean to go. If you start with a blow-out birthday bash for a toddler, you are going to end up on My Super Sweet 16 and then you are going to end up in a mental institution. I don't mean to say that birthday splurges are bad, but in my opinion, part of what makes them special is that the don't happen every year.

I think a child's first birthday is a great time to start some sweet, simple, family traditions. We had a special birthday plate as kids, and now my Girly has one. The Huz had a special spoon. (Strange, I know, but it was special). I have friends who decorate the door to their child's bedroom on their birthday, and that seems really fun.

In the blogs I read, I occasionally come across pictures and planning for kiddo birthday parties. A lot of it is sweet and creative and well-intentioned, but some is just Like a Frida Kahlo birthday party for an 8-year-old? I guess I'm not a California hipster, but seriously, you must be freaking kidding.

If you are a designer or crafty person by trade, by all means make some darling invitations and decorations for your child's party. But, please realize that you are doing those things for yourself. Your child does not feel more loved because of their party decorations. (If they do, well ... that is a different issue). I feel I can say this as someone who occasionally (ok, frequently) spends too much time and effort on tiny details that don't really matter. It was easier before I had a kid, and now I just have to let a lot of that go because there just aren't enough minutes in the day. I still worked on a few little details for our party because I wanted to, fully knowing that I was the only one who would really appreciate them. If you enjoy it, then great. If it causes stress and marital strife, forget it!

We had a nice little party with grandparents, aunts and uncles. I am ALL FOR the family party (or surrogate family if your family is out of town) for as long as you can get away with it. I also like the "number of years = number of friends" rule, again, as long as you can get away with it.

As for thank you notes, I try to be timely with the thanks yous. Our Girly clearly has no idea that a 'thank you' is in order, but I would like to get in the habit because someday she will understand. I have seen the idea to take a picture of your child with the toy and include it with the note. Or take a picture of your child standing by a chalkboard or wipe-off board with a note and the toy. Cute.

I attempted this very thing with our Girly. Attempted is the operative word. I chased her around most of the morning following her party trying to get pictures with her new loot. We eventually got passable pictures, but it wasn't easy.

Does this fall under the "making birthday parties a huge deal" category?

Probably. Damn.

This is a fun way to decorate. Upload any picture to The Rasterbator and you can print it out in any size you want, for free. It prints in little dots and you piece the papers together like a big puzzle. Use smaller dots for a more realistic picture and larger dots for more abstract.

This is a good birthday cake, and slightly healthier than the average.

I got a custom birthday shirt on Etsy. Couldn't resist. And, we were gifted a birthday hat. It is so cute and I think I'll take her picture in it every year. (As long as she lets me, I guess).


Carrie said...

If you talk Mus out of the petting zoo for Charlie's first birthday party you are in serious trouble!

The Lunds said...

You are surrogate family, so that counts. And, rabbits and furry things sound like a "sweet, simple tradition", right?

ERICA said...

Happy birthday, Ellen! And thanks so much for this blog, Molly. It's really simplified my life as a new mommy. (In contrast to my usual OCDing, I have done absolutely NO research about breastfeeding equipment or baby cookbooks...I've just bought everything you recommended).

Bets said...

I got my photo thank you notes today & loved them! I can't wait to take them to work to share! :)